The Oligo–Miocene closure of the Tethys Ocean and evolution of the proto-Mediterranean Sea

Adi Torfstein*, Josh Steinberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The tectonically driven Cenozoic closure of the Tethys Ocean invoked a significant reorganization of oceanic circulation and climate patterns on a global scale. This process culminated between the Mid Oligocene and Late Miocene, although its exact timing has remained so far elusive, as does the subsequent evolution of the proto-Mediterranean, primarily due to a lack of reliable, continuous deep-sea records. Here, we present for the first time the framework of the Oligo–Miocene evolution of the deep Levant Basin, based on the chrono-, chemo- and bio- stratigraphy of two deep boreholes from the Eastern Mediterranean. The results reveal a major pulse in terrigeneous mass accumulation rates (MARs) during 24–21 Ma, reflecting the erosional products of the Red Sea rifting and subsequent uplift that drove the collision between the Arabian and Eurasian plates and the effective closure of the Indian Ocean-Mediterranean Seaway. Subsequently, the proto-Mediterranean experienced an increase in primary productivity that peaked during the Mid-Miocene Climate Optimum. A region-wide hiatus across the Serravallian (13.8–11.6 Ma) and a crash in carbonate MARs during the lower Tortonian reflect a dissolution episode that potentially marks the earliest onset of the global middle to late Miocene carbonate crash.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number13817
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

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